Daniel Palmer

Daniel PalmerDaniel Palmer is the author of thrillers such as Delirious and Helpless.

What is your method for overcoming writer’s block?

I keep pictures of my wife and kids always in eyesight while working. Whenever I don't know what to write, their smiling (and well-fed) faces are a reminder to think of something. All joking aside, figuring out what to write is as much a part of the process as putting down the words. Whenever I'm stuck, I turn to the four tenants of thriller fiction: tension, character, conflict, and stakes. I try to craft my scenes to heighten each of these elements. I continuously ask myself, Who has the most at stake? How do I maximize the conflict in my scene or story? What can I do to show something about my characters that's important to this tale? Where does the tension come from? I do this at both a macro level, examining the book as a whole, and at a micro-level, a chapter, scene, or passage for instance. Soon as I answer these questions to my satisfaction, I feel ready to write. The hardest part is having the discipline to sit and think. I have to resist the urge to write my way out of a block until I have good answers to these questions.

When I start writing, I follow George Orwell's rules for every sentence. I ask myself the following six questions: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? With these guideposts in mind, I have the confidence to overcome most any creative block.

What are your favorite or most helpful writing prompts?

I don't really use writing prompts in the traditional sense. For me, each scene is so unique that no one specific writing prompt could effectively jump start my process. Therefore, the two I use most often are rather generic and come from my father, bestselling thriller author Michael Palmer. The first is a reminder that this is hard. In fact, I have those very words tacked to my bulletin board. THIS IS HARD. Then, I glace at the prompt tacked beside it. BE FEARLESS.

What is the most valuable advice you received as a young writer?

Again I turn to my father for this sage piece of wisdom that has served me quite well over three books now. He once said that readers think they are reading a book to find out what happens, when in truth what makes them turn the pages is their investment in the characters. If you don’t have characters a reader cares about, the most ingenious plotting in the world often won’t be enough to compel readers to reach the end of a story.